I am a Singaporean tourist and I am reporting to you how I have been scammed and taken advantage of as a tourist by the car company Greenmotion. I had booked a car with Greenmotion Heathrow Airport from 13-Apr 3pm to 16-Apr 10am.
1. The staff Costa passed the car to me during collection. The condition of the car exterior was lightly mud-stained, like it had been on a long drive previously and not been cleaned. I took a quick look around the car for significant damages. I didn't see any.
I commented to Costa that the car seems ok. He replied by pointing out a little dent on the side and a scratch underneath it. I lowered my head and saw the scratch. Costa told me a scratch 1.5mm deep is considered a damage. I was immediately thankful that he had done so.
What I didn't know is that he did not indicate that scratch in the form he asked me to sign. I had trusted him and signed in good faith. I believe "signing" out of trust is a common practice this day.
2. On returning the car, another staff Aniesh (not sure about his name) scrutinised that car under direct sun ray, saw that scratch and accused me of causing it. I denied it.
I reasoned by relating about the "1.5mm-deep scratch" conversation I had with Costa.
When we asked Costa, Costa denied and claimed that had scrutinised the car for "30 minutes" that it was fine without scratch before driving away.
This is untrue. I did not scrutinise the car. Absolutely not for 30min. My whatsapp conversations revealed I was rushing for my family at the airport and gave them a ten minute waiting gap upon car collection.
3. I disputed the charge. The paper work is not in my favour as the documents which I signed on did not indicate that scratch on the car.
4. I had no choice but to pay for the charge under duress as I had a plane to catch and time was running out. I am such an easy target. They probably guessed it
5. For that frivolous faint scratch, they charged me 324 pounds! Is this amount justifiable?
Why would Costa not indicate the scratch on my form and why would he lie?
6. Philosophically, there's no reasonable explanation except that fraud is intended
Dishonesty despite Legitimacy?
Corrupt practises can be systematically and strategically set in place, even using legitimate paper work to con unsuspecting customers. A rouge car rental company can easily take advantage of the lack of expertise of lay customers, It can be a strategy to not inform customers of existing miniscule scratches, dents, or bumps (yes - bumps were indicated on their forms. I don't know what it even means). Unsuspecting customers with an untrained eye would not be able to see it. There is this distinction between a trained eye that the professional car renter has and an untrained eye of a customer. It is in this lack of expertise that a rouge company can strategically and systematically exploit.
The other thing rouge car rentals can exploit is the general trust tourists place in car rental companies, because of the trust built up by other reputable companies in the UK and in the home countries of the tourists. In my case, being overly trusting was where I fall short.
Business Model built on Fraud?
Think about this - 324 pounds for a miniscule scratch which I couldn't even notice it at first. What kind of a policy is this for a car company wishing to build itself on good long term reputation? Back in Singapore, a BRAND NEW FULL CAR BODY PAINT job hardly requires one-sixth of that amount!
Role of Authorities
Does the UK authorities have systems and checks in place to ensure fair practice? If not, rouge companies can exploit by making up unfair terms and conditions. A whole business model can be built on fraud. If they can exploit the trust and distinction in expertise between the professional and the lay customer, on a rate of one customer per week, they get a few new cars every year from frivolous and massive damage claims alone.
I sincerely hope the UK authorities can check into this company as from a brief internet search, many customers have suffered the same as me: